CONTEMPORARY ANGLO-CELTIC POETS
GEORGE MEREDITH (283)
Dirge in Woods.A wind sways the pines,
Not a breath of wild air;
Still as the mosses that glow
On the flooring and over the lines
Of the roots here and there.
The pine-tree drops its dead;
They are quiet, as under the sea.
Rushes life in a race,
As the clouds the clouds chase;
And we go,
And we drop like the fruits of the tree,
Outer and Inner.
I.From twig to twig the spider weaves
At noon his webbing fine.
So near to mute the zephyr's flute
That only leaflets dance.
The sun draws out of hazel leaves
A smell of woodland wine.
I wake a swarm to sudden storm
At any step's advance.
Along my path is bugloss blue,
The star with fruit in moss;
The foxgloves drop from throat to top
A daily lesser bell.
The blackest shadow, nurse of dew,
Has orange skeins across ;
And keenly red is one thin thread
That flashing seems to swell.
My world I note ere fancy comes,
Minutest hushed observe:
What busy bits of motioned wits
Through antlered mosswork strive;
But now so low the stillness hums,
My springs of seeing swerve,
For half a wink to thrill and think
The woods with nymphs alive.
I neighbour the invisible
So close that my consent
Is only asked for spirits masked
To leap from trees and flowers.
And this because with them I dwell
In thought, while calmly bent
To read the lines dear Earth designs
Shall speak her life on ours.
Accept, she says; it is not hard
In woods; but she in towns
Repeats, accept; and have we wept,
And have we quailed with fears,
Or shrunk with horrors, sure reward
We have whom knowledge crowns;
Who see in mould the rose unfold,
The soul through blood and tears.
Night of Frost in May.
With splendour of a silver day,
A frosted night had opened May:
And on that plumed and armoured night,
As one close temple hove our wood,
Its border leafage virgin white.
Remote down air an owl halloed.
The black twig dropped without a twirl;
The bud in jewelled grasp was nipped;
The brown leaf cracked with a scorching curl;
A crystal off the green leaf slipped.
Across the tracks of rimy tan,
Some busy thread at whiles would shoot;
A limping minnow-rillet ran,
To hang upon an icy foot.
In this shrill hush of quietude,
The ear conceived a severing cry.
Almost it let the sound elude,
When chuckles three, a warble shy,
From hazels of the garden came,
Near by the crimson-windowed farm.
They laid the trance on breath and frame,
A prelude of the passion-charm.
Then soon was heard, not sooner heard
Than answered, doubled, trebled, more,
Voice of an Eden in the bird
Renewing with his pipe of four
The sob: a troubled Eden, rich
In throb of heart: unnumbered throats
Flung upward at a fountain's pitch,
The fervour of the four long notes,
That on the fountain's pool subside
Exult and ruffle and upspring:
Endless the crossing multiplied
Of silver and of golden string.
There chimed a bubbled underbrew
With witch-wild spray of vocal dew.
It seemed a single harper swept
Our wild wood's inner chords and waked
A spirit that for yearning ached
Ere men desired and joyed or wept.
Or now a legion ravishing
Musician rivals did unite
In love of sweetness high to sing
The subtle song that rivals light;
From breast of earth to breast of sky:
And they were secret, they were nigh:
A hand the magic might disperse;
The magic swung my universe.
Yet sharpened breath forbade to dream,
Where all was visionary gleam;
Where Seasons, as with cymbals, clashed;
And feelings, passing joy and woe,
Churned, gurgled, spouted, interflashed,
Nor either was the one we know:
Nor pregnant of the heart contained
In us were they, that griefless plained,
That plaining soared; and through the heart
Struck to one note the wide apart:--
A passion surgent from despair;
A paining bliss in fervid cold;
Off the last vital edge of air,
Leaping heavenward of the lofty-souled,
For rapture of a wine of tears
As had a star among the spheres
Caught up our earth to some mid-height
Of double life to ear and sight,
She giving voice to thought that shines
Keen-brilliant of her deepest mines;
While steely drips the rillet clinked,
And hoar with crust the cowslips swelled.
Then was the lyre of Earth beheld,
Then heard by me: it holds me linked;
Across the years to dead-ebb shores
I stand on, my blood-thrill restores.
But would I conjure into me
Those issue notes, I must review
What serious breath the woodland drew;
The low throb of expectancy;
How the white mother-muteness pressed
On leaf and meadow-herb; how shook,
Nigh speech of mouth, the sparkle-crest
Seen spinning on the bracken crook.
Hymn to Colour.
With Life and Death I walked when Love appeared,
And made them on each side a shadow seem.
Through wooded vales the land of dawn we neared,
Where down smooth rapids whirls the helmless dream
To fall on daylight; and night puts away
Her darker veil for grey.
In that grey veil green grassblades brushed we by;
We came where woods breathed sharp, and overhead
Rocks raised clear horns on a transforming sky:
Around, save for those shapes, with him who led
And linked them, desert varied by no sign
Of other life than mine.
By this the dark-winged planet, raying wide,
From the mild pearl-glow to the rose upborne,
Drew in his fires, less faint than far descried,
Pure-fronted on a stronger wave of morn:
And those two shapes the splendour interweaved,
Hung web-like, sank and heaved.
Love took my hand when hidden stood the sun
To fling his robe on shoulder-heights of snow.
Then said: There lie they, Life and Death in one.
Whichever is, the other is: but know,
It is thy craving self that thou dost see,
Not in them seeing me.
Shall man into the mystery of breath,
From his quick breathing pulse a pathway spy?
Or learn the secret of the shrouded death,
By lifting up the lid of a white eye?
Cleave thou thy way with fathering desire
Of fire to reach to fire.
Look now where Colour, the soul's bridegroom, makes
The house of heaven splendid for the bride.
To him as leaps a fountain she awakes,
In knotting arms, yet boundless: him beside,
She holds the flower to heaven, and by his power
Brings heaven to the flower.
He gives her homeliness in desert air,
And sovereignty in spaciousness; he leads
Through widening chambers of surprise to where
Throbs rapture near an end that aye recedes,
Because his touch is infinite and lends
A yonder to all ends.
Death begs of Life his blush; Life Death persuades
To keep long day with his caresses graced.
He is the heart of light, the wing of shades,
The crown of beauty; never soul embraced
Of him can harbour unfaith; soul of him
Possessed walks never dim.
Love eyed his rosy memories: he sang:
O bloom of dawn, breathed up from the gold sheaf
Held springing beneath Orient! that dost hang
The space of dewdrops running over leaf;
Thy fleetingness is bigger in the ghost
Than Time with all his host!
Of thee to say behold, has said adieu
But love remembers how the sky was green,
And how the grasses glimmered lightest blue;
How saint-like grey took fervour: how the screen
Of cloud grew violet; how thy moment came
Between a blush and flame.
Love saw the emissary eglantine
Break wave round thy white feet above the gloom
Lay finger on thy star; thy raiment line
With cherub wing and limb; wed thy soft bloom,
Gold-quivering like sunrays in thistle-down,
Earth under rolling brown.
They do not look through love to look on thee,
Grave heavenliness! nor know they joy of sight,
Who deem the wave of rapt desire must be
Its wrecking and last issue of delight.
Dead seasons quicken in one petal-spot
Of colour unforgot.
This way have men come out of brutishness
To spell the letters of the sky and read
A reflex upon earth else meaningless.
With thee, O fount of the Untimed! to lead;
Drink they of thee, thee eyeing, they unaged
Shall on through brave wars waged.
More gardens will they win than any lost;
The vile plucked out of them, the unlovely slain.
Not forfeiting the beast with which they are crossed,
To stature of the Gods will they attain.
They shall uplift their Earth to meet her Lord,
Themselves the attuning chord!
The song had ceased; my vision with the song.
Then of those Shadows, which one made descent
Beside me I knew not: but Life ere long
Came on me in the public ways and bent
Eyes deeper than of old: Death met I too,
And saw the dawn glow through
SEBASTIAN EVANS (292)
Lonely o'er the dying ember
I the past recall,
And remember in December
April buds and August skies,
As the shadows fall and rise,
As the shadows rise and fall.
Quicker now they lift and flicker
On the dreary wall;
Aye, and quicker still and thicker
Throng the fitful fantasies,
As the shadows fall and rise,
As the shadows rise and fall.
Dimmer now they shoot and shimmer
On the dreary wall,
Dimmer, dimmer, still they glimmer
Till the light in darkness dies,
And the other shadows rise,
And the other shadows fall.
EBENEZER JONES (293)
When the World is Burning.
When the world is burning,
Fired within, yet turning
Round with face unscathed;
Ere fierce flames, uprushing,
O'er all lands leap, crushing,
Till earth fall, fire-swathed;
Up against the meadows,
Gently through the shadows,
Gentle flames will glide,
Small, and blue, and golden.
Though by bard beholden,
When in calm dreams folden,--
Calm his dreams will bide.
Where the dance is sweeping,
Through the greensward peeping,
Shall the soft lights start;
Laughing maids, unstaying,
Deeming it trick-playing,
High their robes upswaying,
O'er the lights shall dart;
And the woodland haunter
Shall not cease to saunter
When, far down some glade,
Of the great world's burning,
One soft flame upturning
Seems, to his discerning,
Crocus in the shade.
Lone o'er the moors I stray'd;
With basely timid mind,
Because by some betray'd
I heard the lonely wind,
And wickedly did mourn
I could not share its loneliness,
And all things human scorn.
And bitter were the tears,
I cursed as they fell;
And bitterer the sneers
I strove not to repel:
With blindly mutter'd yell,
I cried unto mine heart,--
"Thou shalt beat the world in falsehood
And stab it ere we part."
My hand I backward drave
As one who seeks a knife;
When startlingly did crave
To quell that hand's wild strife
Some other hand; all rife
With kindness, clasp'd it hard
On mine, quick frequent claspings
That would not be debarr'd.
I dared not turn my gaze
To the creature of the hand
And no sound did it raise,
Its nature to disband
Of mystery; vast, and grand,
The moors around me spread,
And I thought, some angel message
Perchance their God may have sped.
But it press'd another press,
So full of earnest prayer,
While o'er it fell a tress
Of cool soft human hair,
I fear'd not;--I did dare
Turn round, 'twas Hannah there!
Oh! to no one out of heaven
Could I what pass'd declare.
We wander'd o'er the moor
Through all that blessed day
And we drank its waters pure,
And felt the world away;
In many a dell we lay,
And we twined flower-crowns bright;
And I fed her with moor-berries
And bless'd her glad eye-light.
And still that earnest prayer
That saved me many stings,
Was oft a silent sayer
Of countless loving things;--
I'll ring it all with rings,
Each ring a jewell'd band;
For heaven shouldn't purchase
That little sister hand.
EMILY DAVIS (296)
A Song of Winter.
Barb'd blossom of the guarded gorse,
I love thee where I see thee shine:
Thou sweetener of our common-ways,
And brightener of our wintry days.
Flower of the gorse, the rose is dead,
Thou art undying, O be mine!
Be mine with all thy thorns, and prest
Close on a heart that asks not rest.
I pluck thee and thy stigma set
Upon my breast, and on my brow;
Blow, buds, and plenish so my wreath
That none may know the wounds beneath.
O·crown of thorn that seem'st of gold,
No festal coronal art thou;
Thy honey'd blossoms are but hives
That guard the growth of winged lives.
I saw thee in the time of flowers
As sunshine spill'd upon the land,
Or burning bushes all ablaze
With sacred fire; but went my ways;
I went my ways, and as I went
Pluck'd kindlier blooms on either hand;
Now of those blooms so passing sweet
None lives to stay my passing feet.
And still thy lamp upon the hill
Feeds on the autumn's dying sigh,
And from thy midst comes murmuring
A music sweeter than in spring.
Barb'd blossoms of the guarded gorse,
Be mine to wear until I die,
And mine the wounds of love which still
Bear witness to his human will.
ERNEST RHYS (297)
The Night Ride.
To-night we rode beneath a moon
That made the moorland pale;
And our horses' feet kept well the tune
And our pulses did not fail.
The moon shone clear; the hoar-frost fell,
The world slept, as it seemed;
Sleep held the night, but we rode well,
And as we rode we dreamed.
We dreamed of ghostly horse and hound,
And flight at dead of night;--
The more the fearful thoughts we found,
The more was our delight.
And when we saw the white-owl fly,
With hoot, how woebegone!
We thought to see dead men go by,
And pressed our horses on.
The merrier then was Sylvia's song
Upon the homeward road,--
Oh, whether the way be short or long
Is all in the rider's mood!
And still our pulses kept the tale,
Our gallop kept the tune,
As round and over hill and vale
We rode beneath the moon.
The House of Hendra.
'S'ai Plas Hendre
Yn Nghaer Fyrddin:
The House of Hendra stood in Merlin's Town,
and was sung by Brechva on his Harp of gold
at the October Feasting of Ivor.
In the town where wondrous Merlin
Lived, and still
In deep sleep, they say, lies dreaming
Near it, under Merlin's Hill,
In that town of pastoral Towy,
Once of old
Stood the ancient House of Hendra,
Sung on Brechva's harp of gold.
With his harp to Ivor's feasting
There he sang and made this ballad,
While the last torch spent its flame.
Long they told,--the men of Ivor,
Of the strain
At the heart of Brechva's harping
Heard that night, and not again.
Incipit Brechva's Ballad of the House of Hendra,
and of his deep sleep there on Hallowmass Night,
and of his strange awaking.
In yon town, he sang,--there Hendra
Waits my feet,
In renownéd Merlin's town where
Clare's white castle keeps the street.
There, within that house of heroes,
I drew breath;
And 'tis there my feet must bear me,
For the darker grace of death.
There that last year's night I journeyed,--
When the dead of Earth, unburied,
In the darkness rise and pass.
Then in Hendra (all his harp cried
At the stroke),
Twelve moons gone, there came upon me
Sleep like death. At length I woke:
I awoke to utter darkness,
Still and deep,
With the walls around me fallen
Of the sombre halls of sleep:
With my hall of dreams downfallen,
Dark I lay,
Like one houseless, though about me
Hendra stood, more fast than they:
But what broke my sleep asunder,-
Light or sound?
There was shown no sound, where only
Night, and shadow's heart, were found.
Anon he hears a voice in the night,
and rising from sleep, looks out
upon the sleeping town.
So it passed, till with a troubled
Like a cry of men benighted,
Midnight made itself a voice.
Then I rose, and from the stairloop,
Nothing saw, where far before me
Lay, one darkness, all the town.
In that grave day seemed for ever
To lie dead,
Nevermore at wake of morning
To lift up its pleasant head:
All its friendly foolish clamour,
Fast asleep, or dead, beneath me,
In that black descent of night:
But anon, like fitful harping,
Hark, a noise!
As in dream, suppose your dreamer's
Men of shadow found a voice.
Hearing his name called,
Brechva descends to the postern,
and sees thence a circle of Shadows,
in a solemn dance of Death.
Night-wind never sang more strangely
Song more strange;
All confused, yet with a music
In confusion's interchange.
Now it cried, like harried night-birds,
Now, more nigh, with multiplying
Voice on voice, "O Brechva, hear!"
I was filled with fearful pleasure
At the call,
And I turned, and by the stairway
Gained the postern in the wall:
Deep as Annwn lay the darkness
At my feet;--
Like a yawning grave before me,
When I opened, lay the street.
Dark as death and deep as Annwn,--
But these eyes
Yet more deeply, strangely, seeing,
From that grave saw life arise.
And therewith a mist of shadows
In a ring,
Like the sea-mist on the sea-wind,
Waxing, waning, vanishing.
Circling as the wheel of spirits
Whirled and spun,
Spun and whirled, to forewarn Merlin
In the woods of Caledon.
The spirits are no dream folk;
but ancient inmates of the House of Hendra.
Shades of men, ay, bards and warriors!--
Wrought of air,
You may deem, but 'twas no dream-folk,
Born of night, that crossed me there.
And my heart cried out,--"O Vorwyn!
They are those
Who of old-time lived to know here
Life's great sweetness in this house."
I had bid them kinsman's welcome,
In a word,
For the ancient sake of Hendra,
Which they served with harp and sword.
But as still I watched them, wondering,
Knowing all they should forewarn me,--
Of my death and destiny!
Ere I marked all in the silence,
Ere I knew,
Swift as they had come, as strangely
Now their shadowy life withdrew.
The Spirits being gone,
Brechva hears aerial music,
and sees in vision all the Bards
in the seventh Heaven.
They were gone; but what sweet wonder
Filled the air!--
With a thousand harping noises,
Harping, chiming, crying there.
At that harping and that chiming,
Grew my heart, and in the darkness
Found great solace at that song.
Through the gate of night, its vision,
Three times fine,
Saw the seventh heaven of heroes,
'Mid a thousand torches' shine:
All the bards and all the heroes
Of old time
There with Arthur and with Merlin
Weave again the bardic rhyme.
There a seat is set and ready,
And the name
There inscribed, and set on high thereof
Brechva of the Bards of Fame.
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